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Business News/ News / India/  End of an era: Mumbai's Premier Padmini taxis go off-road after 6 decades; Anand Mahindra pays tribute
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End of an era: Mumbai's Premier Padmini taxis go off-road after 6 decades; Anand Mahindra pays tribute

Premier Padmini taxis, known as Kaali Peeli, bid farewell to Mumbai's roads today. Mahindra Group Chairman pays tribute to Mumbai's iconic Premier Padmini taxis.

Kaali-Peeli bid good-byePremium
Kaali-Peeli bid good-bye

Mumbai's ‘Premier Padmini’ famously known as the Kaali Peeli taxis will go off-road from today i.e. from 30 October. This decision to send Premier Padmini off road came shortly after the iconic diesel-powered double-decker buses in the fleet of public transporter Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) undertaking due to the end of their 15-year codal life.

Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra also gave a tribute to the iconic Premier Padmini Taxis and said that though they were clunkers, uncomfortable and noisy, but carried tons of memories for many people.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Anand Mahindra wrote, “From today, the iconic Premier Padmini Taxi vanishes from Mumbai’s roads. They were clunkers, uncomfortable, unreliable, noisy. Not much baggage capacity either. But for people of my vintage, they carried tons of memories. And they did their job of getting us from point A to point B. Goodbye and alvida, kaali-peeli taxis. Thank you for the good times…"

Why are Premier Padmini taxis being removed ?

The last Premier Padmini was registered as a black-and-yellow cab at the Tardeo RTO, which oversees the island metropolis of Mumbai, on October 29, 2003, according to a transport department official as reported by PTI. As the age limit for cabs in the city is 20 years, Mumbai officially won’t have a Premier Padmini taxi from today onwards.

Premier Padmini and her iconic journey

AL Quadros, general secretary of the Mumbai Taximens Union, recalled that Premier Padmini’s journey as a taxi started in 1964 with the model ‘Fiat-1100 Delight’, a powerful 1200-cc car with a steering-mounted gear shifter. It was small compared to “big taxis" like the Plymouth, Landmaster, Dodge, and Fiat 1100, called by locals as ‘dukkar Fiat’.

The model was then renamed as "Premier President" in the 1970s and then as "Premier Padmini" in honour of the renowned Indian queen Padmini. According to him, the Premier Automobile Limit (PAL) vehicle never underwent a name change after then until its production was halted in 2001.

For a considerable amount of time after its production ended, some 100–125 Premier Padmini cabs were left unregistered for various reasons which included shortage of replacement components. However, according to Quadros, in 2003, car dealers managed to secure their registration and the last taxi registered then will now be scrapped.

In the ’60s, Mumbai and Kolkata would get 25-30 Fiat-1100D or Ambassador cars as taxis every second month, he said as reported by PTI. “The government had set the quota for two cities, but cabbies of Mumbai were reluctant to buy Ambassador and the same was the case with Fiat in Kolkata. Therefore, the union got the quota exchanged with Kolkata and consequently, Mumbai got only Fiat taxis," Quadros said as quoted by the agency.

Premier Padmini's number peaked in the 1990s, according to Quadros, however, many of them were forced off the road after the Maharashtra government set a 25-year age limit for cabs in 2008 and then brought it down to 20 years in 2013.

“Premier Padminis were popular among cabbies due to their smaller size, reliable engines, easy maintenance, and comfortable interiors, but after their production stopped, unavailability of spare parts became the main problem," Quadros said as quoted by PTI. Then, he continued that taxis began to adopt different Maruti Suzuki and Hyundai hatchback models.

Premier Padmini and Bollywood connection:

The Premier Padmini cabs were not just limited to commute, but hold Mumbai’s cultural heritage as they featured in many Bollywood movies - ‘Taxi No. 9211’, ‘Khaali-Peeli’, and ‘Aa Ab Laut Chale’. 

Premier Padmini and Kaali-Peeli colour:

Bharat Gothoskar, a city chronicler and founder of the KHAKI Heritage Foundation told news agency PTI that Mumbai’s taxis are yellow and black in colour due to Vithal Balkrishna Gandhi, a freedom fighter who later became an MP. Gandhi had recommended to former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the upper part of the cabs should be painted yellow so that they can be spotted from a distance and the lower part black to hide any stains, Gothoskar said as quoted by the agency.

Prabhadevi resident Abdul Kareem Karsekar, who owns the last registered Premier Padmini taxi of Mumbai, bearing registration number MH-01-JA-2556 said, “Yeh Mumbai ki shaan hai aur hamari jaan hai (it is the pride of Mumbai and life of mine)."

Currently, Mumbai now has over 40,000 black-and-yellow cabs, though, in the late ’90s, it had about 63,000 of them, including the air-conditioned “cool cabs" with their distinctive ‘blue and silver’ colour scheme.

A few years ago, the Mumbai Taximen’s Union, one of the biggest taxi driver unions in the city, had also petitioned the government to preserve at least one kaali-peeli, but without any success.

(With inputs from PTI)

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Published: 30 Oct 2023, 09:29 AM IST
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